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    Asked by pwagner on Monday, April 29, 2013


    My friend has had surgery, they removed a tumor in her pancreas that also required surgery to remove part of the intestine and stomach. She has lost 25-28 pounds. She has to gain more weight before they can do treatment. What kinds of food are most helpful?

    5 Answers from the Community

    5 answers
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar
      AlizaMLS (Best Answer!)

      Der pwagner,

      Hi. I'm Aliza, a BC patient and Medical Librarian. I answer questions - usually non medical ones (librarians tend to avoid medical questions, even if we know the answers as it's practicing medicine sans license and of course, illegal). I also offer referrals to doctors, hospitals, institutions, agencies, websites, books, media, etc. as well as research when required or requested.

      I'm also permitted to speak fro my own experience as a Cancer patient as well as those of family and friends (we number too many).

      My advice to your friend would be to have your friend check with her doctor or perhaps better yet a registered dietician. A dietician would be the best person for knowing the most nutritious higher caloric foods that will help your friend gain weight. Consuming empty calories isn't the solution here.

      I wish your friend luck and she seems to have fund some in having a good friend who's so concerned about her well being.

      I might also recommend that your friend speak to the folks at CancerCare if she hasn't already done so. Their Social Workers are skilled in dealing with the very specialized needs of Cancer patients and their caregivers.

      If there's anything else I can help with, I'm happy to do so, please feel free to contact me ere or offsite via email.

      Warm Wishes,

      about 8 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      It can be a challenge just to eat. What we did with dad when he was not eating was, because he does not like Ensure or Boost type drinks, used Carnation Breakfast Essentials, blended with 1 cup of whole milk, 1/3 cup powdered milk , and a scoop of ice cream. This combination ends up having more protein than an Ensure drink. I get the variety pack, and so with the strawberry ones, I toss a few frozen strawberries into the blender too. With the vanilla ones, sometimes I throw in a banana.

      Fruit juices made with real fruit, or fruit smoothies instead of a glass of water might help add calories without adding more bulk to what she's consuming, at the same time getting fluids in.

      If she has soups for her meals, you can ask about boosting the nutrition by adding some of the liquid to the blender, and blending extra beans with it, then stir it into the soup.

      Smaller, more frequent meals and snacks spread throughout the day might be easier to handle rather than a couple big meals. What I did was make these meals available, even if my dad didn't eat them. I would say it's time to eat, eat what you can-- do the best you can and leave the rest. Think small... little pudding cups or fruit cups here and there with the meal. Try to think of things she might be interested in eating. Sometimes the best thing to eat is whatever you feel like eating. Every little bit adds up.

      Food has protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These three are called macronutrients, and that's where your calories come from. If there are no problems digesting fats, fats are more dense in calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein. Peanut butter on crackers or on celery sticks, or apple slices for a snack adds a little protein, as well as the fat to add on calories fast. Although, because of involvement with the digestive system, I would ask about the fats. My dad did not have the surgery for the pancreatic cancer.

      With these things, after the initial weight loss, dad was able to maintain his weight well above normal weight. Although with the cancer, there is a noticeable loss of healthy muscle mass. So I think it's important to make sure there is adequate protein in the diet. That can be difficult to do when the appetite is reduced. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has a small booklet on diet and nutrition that they can send free of charge pancan.org called Diet & Nutrition: Nutritional Concerns with Pancreatic Cancer. It touches on loss of appetite, taste changes, controlling weight loss, preventing or reducing diarrhea, malabsorption and pancreatic enzymes, other side effects, dietary changes following surgery, vitamins, diabetes, the role of a dietitian, and general eating recommendations.

      In their booklet, in the section on controlling weight loss, it says "weight loss is a common problem in individuals with cancer of the pancreas and/or after a Whipple procedure, the most common surgery for pancreatic cancer. Weight loss can be associated with treatment or with the cancer itself." It goes into an interesting explanation of why one might experience difficulties maintaining weight, and offers these tips:

      1. Consult with a registered dietitian for nutrition counseling.
      2. Get plenty of rest.
      3. Plan to eat 5-6 times per day including snacks in between meals.
      4. Eat calorie-rich, nutrient-dense foods and try not to consume foods or liquids with little nutritional value, such as soft drinks.
      5. Restrict or avoid any foods that may cause or worsen diarrhea.
      6. Use nutritional drink supplements such as Boost, Ensure, and Carnation Instant Breakfast, as snacks or drink with medications that can be taken with food.
      7. Consult with a doctor or dietitian to consider if pancreatic enzymes may be helpful, and take them as directed.

      about 8 years ago
    • tibby150's Avatar

      I found nanny eggs(soft boil eggs with dry pieces of toast) to be the only food that I could eat for awhile....good thing is I love them

      about 8 years ago
    • tibby150's Avatar

      also boiled potatoes with no butter might help with the weight gain

      about 8 years ago
    • Russ' Avatar

      Hi pwagner,
      I am surprised to hear that they would not start treatments until she gained more weight. I am a 12 year pancreatic cancer survivor, and I lost 50 lbs after surgery, and treatments began about 2 months later only because it was Christmas and they thought it better to wait until after the Holidays so that I may enjoy my time with family and friends better than having treatments at that time. Boy was I glad we waited until after the Holidays, because I had 24/7 of chemo and radiation at the same time...and it was brutal, I was crawling on my hands and knees. I had quite a few short term side effects, and some long term side effects that are still with me. I wrote a book about my journey with cancer, but never tried to get it published. It was therapeutic more than anything. If you would like to read the chapter on side effects, and another chapter about my digestives system, let me know and I will send them to you on email. My email address is: [email redacted] You may have to send me an email through WhatNext.

      As far as what to eat...it is very difficult to say. I vomited every day during treatments. The only thing that I could eat and keep down for any length of time was a bowl of Cheerios with half a banana sliced on top, and milk. I know that sounds strange, but it worked for me, and 1 years later that is still my breakfast of choice...every day! Try that ProSure...it was developed to give pancreatic cancer patients a better quality of life. It didn't work for me, because It came right back up as soon as I drank it. We all have things that work for us, but are not a sure thing for others. You have to try different things on your own.

      Take care and never give up hope. I beat this thing for 12 1/2yrs now...so can others. I told the doctors to count me in on those statistics they quoted me, because someone has to be in that 4% who make it 5 yrs.

      Best regards,

      about 8 years ago

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